September 23, 2017

Good readers ask good questions


For the first six or so weeks of the school year, we really focus on asking, "What do good readers do?" Last week, we talked about inferring, reading with fluency and asking questions. It's time for us to move into writing about what we read.  On Wednesday, we started talking about how good readers ask good questions about the book they're reading. 

Right now, we're reading a novel called, There's a Boy in the Girl's Washroom by Louis Sachar.  The boys and girls love it! We're just about halfway through the text and there are many questions still unanswered.


On Thursday, I asked the boys and girls to write 1,2,or 3 questions on a Post-it Note. Giving an option to write a number of questions appeals to all learning levels. Kids who have difficulty putting their thoughts onto paper find this task less daunting and those kids who love to write know they have some freedom too. These type of flexible instructions allow students to feel a sense of accomplishment and as these experiences build, so does their writing confidence. Before you know it, everyone is writing up a storm because they know they have the skills to get the job done.  


Have a look at the photo of our questions. I know you can't read them here but if you visited our class, you would see how thoughtful and sophisticated their questions are.   


On Tuesday, we'll start a reading response booklet I've created based on a very relate-able text called, "Those Shoes".  This is an assignment that builds a variety of skills and I'll blog more about it next week.

Writing about one's reading is an excellent way for teachers to assess both writing skills and reading comprehension. And within this type of task, kids still have freedom to add their own creative flair because they're responding to a wide-variety of questions, which are always more fun to read when you can get a sense of the author's voice and personality

September 21, 2017

What is schema?


We had an important talk on Wednesday. We talked about schema.  

What is schema? 

I use a book by literacy expert, Debbie Miller as my guide. Reading With Meaning is one of those books I come back to time after time in my literacy instruction. Debbie Miller is *that teacher*. When I was a kid, I wanted hair like Blair from Facts of Life. As a teacher, I want to be just like Debbie Miller. 


Schema is all the stuff in your head. It's your experiences, your likes, your dislikes, your friends, your knowledge, all that good stuff. Basically, it's the prior knowledge that you bring to the table when you read a book, watch a movie, have a conversation, just about any experience you have. 

When we read, we use our schema to connect with the text. It's really the deciding factor in whether or not we like a book. If you can't connect to a text on some level, you likely won't enjoy it.  Without our schema, we're just reading words and not relating, we're not constructing meaning and having a conversation with our self.


You have more fun with a text when you can relate to it. We can likely all think of a story that we just never got "into" (hello Harry Potter...I'm looking in your direction).


When you use your schema, you say to yourself, "Hey, that happened to me once" and you can appreciate how the character must feel, you can put yourself in their shoes.  


So now that the boys and girls know what we mean when we talk about schema, we say it a lot. In fact, even when dealing with challenging situations that arise throughout the day, I might say to a child, "Now you can add this to your schema, so you'll know what to do next time." We don't only use our prior knowledge to assist with reading. I get a lot of mileage out of this word! 


As a youngster, I loved reading Judy Blume books because I could so easily relate to many of the themes in her stories.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that connection, that use of my schema, is why I devoured every one of her books. When we use our schema, we tend to see reading as a more pleasurable activity.  

The boys and girls learned and reviewed all kinds of new words: schema, connection, relate and prior knowledge. It was a great Literacy Block and as we move through the year, my hope is that the students will see how using their schema takes reading to a whole new level.

Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller  


September 20, 2017

What do you infer?

This week, we have begun our discussion about how good readers infer. 

We explain it to students by telling them that inferring means we read between the lines. We understand the implied message by using two things: 
  • our own prior or background knowledge of the subject (our schema) 
  • the clues the author has provided in the text or pictures 
I'm looking forward to reading the boys and girls this simple, but funny story called, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. It usually takes a moment at the end, but the kids soon infer just what happened to the rabbit in the story. 



I found this funny photo online a few years ago. I'll show it to the class later this week and ask, "What do you infer?" 


Now, if you have never had or heard of pumpkin-pie, an inference would be hard here but if you have enjoyed making or eating pumpkin-pie, you likely know exactly why Senor Pumpkin looks a little concerned.  

Please review this photo with your child and discuss the two factors that help us to infer messages in what we read and view.

  

September 18, 2017

Fabulous fluent readers!

Each morning, students are responsible for volunteering to read something from our Morning Message.  You can read all about Morning Messages from an older blog post here.  I've tweaked and updated things since then, but the overall purpose remains the same.  

Here are some screen shots from a recent M.M.    








Students are invited to identify new (and often fake) events I post on our calendar as a way to develop oral communication confidence.  They are required to speak in full sentence (e.g. "I notice that on Saturday September 9th, we're going to a baking class.) 
I purposely design my messages so that there are reading opportunities for every level.  The focus is on participation, developing fluency and building skills in quick, short, commercial-type bursts of information.   

We also review our T.O.T.W (Text of the Week) each morning. We read the text together and then students respond to a variety of questions that help prepare them for the test that Friday.  

One area where I would like to see the boys and girls grow, is around fluency.  I would like to see oral reading sound more smooth, like the way we talk.  What exactly is fluency?  I would like to refer you to the photos below from Jennifer Serravallo's "The Reading Strategies Book". This resource has greatly influenced the way I teach reading for the last few years. I can't recommend it enough to teachers and to parents who are interested in supporting their child at home.  Please click on the photos to read what she has to say.  






To help support my students, I wrote this story over the weekend. 

I'm asking that parents have their child read it aloud each night.  The text is quite simple and most students should be able to read it with little support. Please encourage your child to: 
  • group words into phrases so it sounds natural when read aloud
  • try to sound like the character (he doesn't actually speak in the story, but there are opportunities to express his exasperation and excitement) 
  • avoid reading word-by-word (we call that "robot reading") 
  • pay attention to punctuation! Pause at commas and show excitement at exclamation points.
  • monitor pace: we don't want to read too fast or too slow 
I think that with practice and a little bit of nudging from the grown-ups who love them, my students will be able to become very fluent readers! 

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